Planting and Growing Herbaceous Evergreen Groundcovers

Herbaceous Evergreen Groundcovers are non-woody plants (such as low vines) that grow naturally in close proximity. These groundcovers generally are planted in lieu of grass where a thick, richly textured ‘living carpet’ is desired for landscaping purposes, or a shaded location or steep slope makes a lawn difficult to maintain. The principal Evergreen Groundcovers that Rosedale recommends for these areas include: Pachysandra or Japanese Spurge (Pachysandra terminalis), Hardy Myrtle (Vinca minor), Purpleleaf Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortune ‘Colorata’), and English and Baltic Ivy (Hedera helix and H. h. ‘Baltica’). Because groundcover plants grow closely together, they help excule weeds and other plants through competition, but also require good soil preparation, adequate water, and annual fertilizing for best results.

SITE CONDITIONS:

In general, the Groundcovers recommended for specific site conditions and purposes are as follows:

Pachysandra (6-8” ht. glossy, medium green foliage; small white flowers). Best for lightly to densely shaded locations with reasonably deep soils. Excellent for foundation plantings and a frequent choice for traditional-style homes. Pachysandra does not establish as well as Ivy or Wintercreeper in areas with thin, rocky soils or where there are many surface-rooted trees.

Hardy Myrtle (4-6” ht. small, blue-green oval leaves; attractive lavender flowers). Best in sun to moderate shade with reasonably deep soils. Does not become quite as dense a Groundcover as Pachysandra. Attractive in both formal and woodland areas for its fine texture, glossy deep green leaves, and flowers.

Purpleleaf Wintercreeper (3-5” ht. 1-1 ½ “, blue-green, oval leaves). Best in sun to moderate shade in all soils. Provides the best coverage on steep slopes and in work areas. Particularly effective for contemporary houses. Blue-green foliage turns purple in fall/winter. Note: Purpleleaf Wintercreeper is eaten by deer and rabbits.

English/Baltic Ivy (Trailing Vines; green to dark-green leaves). Large-leaved English Ivy grows best in light to heavy shade; Baltic Ivy will tolerate full sun. Both are good in all soil, but may be eaten by deer in areas with active deer populations. Particularly effective where a larger leaf texture is desired, or to cover locations with rocky soils or surface-roots. Both varieties can cling to and climb tree trunks, masonry walls and stones.

PLANTING GUIDE:

Recommended No. of PlantingNo. Plants/Flat (except as noted)No. Plants Needed per 100 sq. ft.
Pachysandra4-7/sq. ft.100 rooted cuttings400-700
Hardy Myrtle3-4/sq. ft.
1/sq. ft.
24 clumps (flat)
1 gal. pots
300-400
100
Purpleleaf Wintercreeper2-3/sq. ft.100 rooted cuttings200-300
English/Baltic Ivy1-2/sq. ft.48 rooted cuttings/flat100-200
English/Baltic Ivy1-2/sq. ft.24 rooted cuttings/half flat100-200
Recommended No. of PlantingNo. Plants/Flat (except as noted)No. Plants Needed per 100 sq. ft.
Pachysandra4-7/sq. ft.100 rooted cuttings400-700
Hardy Myrtle3-4/sq. ft.
1/sq. ft.
24 clumps (flat)
1 gal. pots
300-400
100
Purpleleaf Wintercreeper2-3/sq. ft.100 rooted cuttings200-300
English/Baltic Ivy1-2/sq. ft.48 rooted cuttings/flat100-200
English/Baltic Ivy1-2/sq. ft.24 rooted cuttings/half flat100-200

PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Clear the location of weeds and rocks. Loosen soil thoroughly to a depth of 5-7” using a handfork or rototiller. Rave even.
  2. Spread on groundcover bed a layer of Peat Moss or Compost approximately 1” thick (4 cu. ft. Peat Moss bale covers approx. 80 sq. ft.) and Planting Fertilizer (4-10-6) as described on bag instructions.
  3. Thoroughly mix Peat Moss or Compost and fertilizer into soil.
  4. Gently pull rooted cuttings or clumps from flats as needed. Make holes for planting by digging narrow, 3-4” deep holes with trowel. Place plants in holes, spread root systems in natural manner, replace soil, and firmly tamp with hands.
  5. Use groundcover spacing recommended above. Increase quantity per sq. ft. quantity if thicker groundcover is desired immediately.
  6. Mulch groundcover bed with 2” layer of Pine Bark or other natural mulch. For best results on steep slopes, use Cypress Bark Mulch, since individual pieces tend to hold together and resist washing away better than other mulches.
  7. Water gently but thoroughly for good soaking.
  8. Continue watering as above twice per week for first 3 weeks, then reduce water to 2-2 times per week until established (3-4 months).

MAINTENANCE:

Weed the bed every 3-4 weeks during the growing season or as needed. Note: Avoid stepping on all the groundcovers, as they are tender plants and damage easily. Water during prolonged dry periods or on unusually hot days as needed. Provide top dressing of mulch in fall to maintain 2” deep layer. Discontinue weeding (except where needed) and mulching after plants have closed spaces to form solid groundcover.

MATERIALS NEEDED:

Peat Moss or Compost
Pine Bark or other organic mulch
Planting Fertilizer (4-10-6)
Garden Hose

HELPFUL TOOLS

Shovel
Handfork
Lawn Rake
Trowel

REFERENCES:

All About Groundcovers (Books)
Groundcovers and Vines (Brooklyn Botanic Garden)

© Rosedale Nurseries, Inc. 1994, 2004
P-3